Well, my kidlets, I’m back. I’ve been in Hong Kong for the last two weeks to celebrate Chinese/Lunar New Year (since my Japanese New Year celebrations didn’t go that well), so please forgive my absence and lack of posts.
The holiday was great but preparing for it was highly frustrating, especially the Japanese Immigration side of things. So, to make sure that none of you have to put up with the same crap that I did, here’s an outline of what you must do if you’re living and working in Japan but fancy going on an overseas trip.
Firstly, check your visa. Do you have a work visa or a working holiday visa? A studying visa? Then you’ll need a re-entry permit. If you do not get a re-entry permit, then your visa will be void when you arrive back in Japan. You’ll probably be able to enter the country again, but only under a tourist visa, which means you are not allowed to work or study anymore.
To get a re-entry permit, you’ll need to fill out a form and pay a fee at the prefecture’s immigration office. This is the immigration office for foreigner affairs, not the immigration office for Japanese citizens. Be careful, because this can be in different buildings and sometimes different cities.
(For directions in Kanagawa Prefecture: Take the Minato Mirai subway line from Yokohama station to Motomachi-Chukagai. Take Exit number 4, turn left outside and left again at the intersection. You should pass the building marked “Immigration Affairs”. There may be a few taxis outside it, so you can spot it easier. The offices you require are on the 5th floor. These directions may sound like petty information but it’s not really that easily available in English and would have saved me a lot of stress if I knew it beforehand. If you can write out directions to the office in other prefectures, please add them in the Comments to help make other people’s lives easier.)
There will be a desk marked “Re-Entry Permits”. They will give you a form to fill out or you can pick it up before approaching the desk. To fill out the form and submit it, you will need: your passport with your visa in it, your Alien Registration card (also known as the gaijin card) and the fee for the permit.
There are two types of re-entry permit. The Single (which you can use only once) and the Multiple re-entry (which you can use as often as necessary until your visa expires). Keep in mind that even though your visa may be extendable, the re-entry permit is not. You will need a new permit each time you have a new (extended) visa. My visa expires in March and although I plan to extend it, it was suggested that I only take the Single re-entry permit to save some money.
The cost for a single re-entry permit is ¥3000 and ¥6000 for a multiple re-entry permit. There is a system in Japan where official payments (such as those made to the government) require postage-stamp type proofs of payment. Basically, you pay the cash to a person or a machine, you receive a postage stamp with the amount paid printed on it. This gets attached to the form as proof of payment and then submitted for processing.
Thankfully, the processing time for re-entry permits is small. Depending on how busy the office is, it can take between 10 minutes or an hour.
When you leave Japan, you will have to fill out a special form for those with re-entry permits. It may have been given to you when you paid for your permit or you can pick it up at Immigration. You will be in a special queue for visa-holders with re-entry permits, not the Visitors queue. Make sure you have filled it out before being processed at Immigration, especially if you’re at Narita Airport. When you leave, they will take half of that form. The other half is for your arrival back in Japan.
When you arrive back, there will again be a special queue for re-entry permit holders, perhaps under the Japanese Passport Holders queue. Make sure the second half of your form is filled out. You might wish to have your Alien Registration card handy in case there are any questions.
And hopefully, you’ll be processed quickly, with another stamp in your passport to show off.
The good thing about this entire process is that there are many people that can speak English to help you out. Japan has strict Immigration rules, so make sure you have completed everything that’s required. Or else you might end up in trouble, like being unable to work or study in the country.